Cultivate was one of the early HR tech startups to gather insight into manager communication and style via passive listening to a manager’s digital communications on channels like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Office 365, and Google Suite. They use the data to deliver private feedback and coaching directly to managers who have opted-into the service. They introduce AI and machine learning into the process. As Cultivate learns a manager’s communication patterns, it nudges them to focus on developmental areas related to leadership and soft skills. A manager can also give feedback to Cultivate to adjust the nudges based on the context of the relationships with their team.
It’s an app that walks a fine line between being creepy and helpful.
“Listening” to communications between a manager and staff can mass a LOT of personal data. Data that can be considered confidential between an employee and their manager. The fact that data on company communication platforms is the property of the employer looks like an area of data privacy that is a little murky as best. While an employer may not face challenges from a legal perspective, it seems that from a cultural perspective, this could present a problem. As employees begin to understand that their communications are being captured, analyzed, and indexed in some form, it isn’t hard to imagine questions of bias and fairness, similar to the challenges HireVue faces in the recruiting market.
For now, Cultivate “walks that line” by being laser-focused on the types of feedback and “nudges” to content that only support more effective leadership and employee relationships. But, there’s no doubt that it’s a tightrope they’re walking. They’ve also adopted messaging focused on “coaching,” which is a bit of a stretch in the context of the expectations that HR, L&D, and managers themselves have of a coach.
The “coaching message” is then confused by an analogy to assessments. Cultivate touts “No surveys needed” on their website. I suspect this will leave buyers confused where Cultivate fits. Is this a replacement for engagement and culture surveys? Or, is this a replacement for my current coaching initiatives in L&D?
While we expect to see more systems focused on “passively listening,” we expect market adoption to be slow given the current PR and legal challenges staring at employers using tech like HireVue that capture passive communication data and use it make management recommendations.